The Heritage of Pisgah
Pisgah Chapel was built in 1895 as a sister chapel to the nearby Moriah Chapel. It was constructed to be the home of the children’s Sunday School, of which 16-year-old Evan Roberts was Superintendent and led the Sunday school meetings. The land was donated by Samuel Thomas, the owner of nearby Broad Oak colliery, which was also the coal mine where Evan Roberts and his father worked. Prior to this, the Sunday school of Moriah Chapel had been meeting since 1893 in a room above the colliery offices and this was becoming inconvenient.
In spite of his young age, Evan Roberts was appointed as foreman for the construction of the chapel. Evan personally manufactured and installed the gate at the entrance of the chapel grounds. The construction costs for Pisgah were funded by the congregation at Moriah which took out a loan. Pisgah was very dear to Evan; not only was it situated close by his family home, he would also often describe it in letters to his friends as his “beloved Pisgah”.
After Pisgah had been constructed, Evan’s father wanted to donate a pulpit bible for use in the chapel. Evan was sent to purchase a bible within a spending limit and was told to return the change. However, he spent all the money and bought the very best bible he could find, and told his father he would repay the amount that exceeded the original spending limit in installments.
A bible was found in Pisgah when it was acquired by the Evan Roberts Institute in 2014, but it has not been verified if this was the actual bible purchased by Evan and his family. Still, it is ornate, and would have been expensive in Evan Roberts’ time. It is now on display at the chapel along with a teacup which commemorates Evan Roberts and the 1904 revival. The teacup was donated to the Evan Roberts Institute by the Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales.
Pisgah was the place where Evan Roberts cut his teeth preaching and prayed, sometimes for hours in solitude or with others, for the touch of God on his life and for revival in Wales. The current pulpit and pews in Pisgah are the originals which were installed in the chapel when Evan Roberts built the church, which also meant that it was used during the 1904 revival.
On 30th October 1904, Evan Roberts had a vision of the young people of Loughor streaming in and out of Pisgah while he was preaching to them. The vision caused Evan to return to Loughor from college in Newcastle Emlyn, where he had been preparing for entry to the ministry, to hold a series of meetings. It was at the first of these meetings, in the school room of Moriah Chapel on the next day, that the revival broke forth. Pisgah played host to the subsequent meetings that followed. In his diary on 1st November 1904, Evan recorded: “We had a glorious meeting in Pisgah.”
In spite of its small size, Pisgah became a focal point of the awakening in Wales. There were meetings in the chapel every day throughout the revival. Crowds would fail to gain entry and would swarm the grounds outside the chapel, listening to what was happening inside. Pisgah was the scene of countless conversions, sincere repentance, and weeping with joy at sins forgiven.
During the revival in Wales, 100,000 souls were swept into His kingdom. Yet Evan Roberts’ preaching was simple; it was recorded in his diary as follows: “This is what I said every night:
- We must confess before God every single sin in our past life that has not been confessed.
- We must remove anything that is doubtful in our lives.
- Total Surrender. We must say and do all that the Spirit tells us.
- Make a public confession of Christ.
On Christmas Day in 1904, a young miner by the name of DP Williams tried to get into hear Evan Roberts preach, but he was unable to do so because of the large crowds. He stood outside to listen as best he could and after some time decided to leave for he was disappointed. To his surprise, Evan Roberts left the chapel at the same time. DP asked Evan to pray for him before he departed; he did, and as Evan laid his hands on him, DP fell to the ground. He remained on the ground for some two hours, experiencing a vision of Christ before he arose, soundly converted. The experience transformed DPs life and he went on to establish the Apostolic Church denomination, which today has more than 10 million members.
As Evan travelled to take the revival fire across Wales, he received many unsolicited gifts and donations from grateful congregations and converts. In early 1905, he was invited to hold some revival meetings in Liverpool amongst the Welsh chapels in the city. He was convicted by what he read in Luke 9:3 and vowed that he would “take nothing for… the journey” and leave Wales with “neither bread, neither money”. Evan, by faith, gave away every penny of his savings to friends, worthy causes, evangelistic efforts and, gave £200 to clear the debt on his “beloved Pisgah” – worth around £20,000 today.
A congregation would continue to meet in Pisgah until the 1970s when it was closed by the Welsh Presbyterian Church. In the 1980s, the chapel reopened and was leased to the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, which was founded by Reverend Ian Paisley, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland. A Scripture verse behind the pulpit was installed at this time from Job 22:21, “Acquaint now thyself with Him.” This has also been reinstated as part of the restoration of the chapel.
Unfortunately, the chapel closed again in 2010 because of its unstable and derelict condition. An application for the demolition of the chapel was made in 2012, but thanks to the intervention of the Evan Roberts Institute, this was withdrawn. The building was acquired by the Institute in 2014 and in 2015, Cornerstone Community Church in Singapore bought Pisgah Chapel and funded its restoration.
Darren Millar AM
National Assembly for Wales